Charles Edward Tisdall

[b. Apr. 9, 1866, Birmingham, England; arrived Vancouver, April 1888;
d. (in office as alderman) Mar. 17, 1936.]

When Mayor Tisdall stepped into the mayor’s chair he became the only mayor selected under the system of proportional representation, in which the candidate for city council getting the most votes became mayor. As an earlier MLA (Conservative), a Park Board member for 15 years, and an alderman, Tisdall’s popularity and familiarity among the electorate no doubt helped him achieve the highest civic office. These were the early years of the rise in prosperity since the end of the war, a phenomenon that helped fuel the drive for more schools, parks, and the expansion of port facilities in Vancouver.

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William Templeton

[b. 1853 Belleville; arrived Vancouver (Granville) Jan. 4, 1886.; d. Jan. 16, 1898, Vancouver.]
William Templeton, a butcher, was part of the CPR clique which had benefited from the land grant given the company in exchange for making Vancouver its terminus. Despite his electoral victory, this affiliation aroused suspicion among the city’s working class, whose contribution to public life was on the rise.

Templeton is said to have been a bad political strategist with an aggressive personality. After failing to win a bid for mayor six years earlier (some say because of a slur he made on opponent David Oppenheimer’s accent), he did, however, serve as an alderman and later as school trustee. After losing his seat to James Garden in a bid for re-election, he purportedly committed suicide by taking an overdose of a sleeping potion.

William Reid Owen • 1924

[b. Nov 25, 1864, Ontario; arrived Vancouver 1899;d. Mar 22, 1949, Vancouver.]

Vancouver’s mayor in the mid-decade of the Roaring Twenties was strongly identified with one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, Mount Pleasant. At the time he became mayor, Owen was a realtor and insurance agent there, and earlier had been its first blacksmith. His years in office were the first really good years economically since the postwar slump. Both public and private sources moved to develop recreational facilities and entertainment centres, building parks and golf courses. The number of movie houses grew rapidly. Owen was the first Vancouver mayoralty candidate to use radio in his campaign. He gave a ten minute speech over Station CJCE. Before becoming mayor, Owen was on the Board of Directors of the Vancouver General Hospital and held an insurance policy with the VGH as beneficiary worth $10,000.

Thomas Fletcher Neelands

Mayor 1902-1903 (Acclaimed in 1903)
[b. Mar 8, 1862 Carleton, Ontario;d. Dec. 2, 1944, Vancouver. Arrived Granville (Vancouver) March 1886.]

Land issues marked Neelands’ tenure. After being burned out of the flour and feed business in the Great Fire, he became involved with the Pacific Building Society offering mortgages by lottery to members who paid dues to build up the fund.

While he was mayor, the city’s recreational facilities improved and expanded with the acquiring of rights for sunbathing on the English Bay shore, Alexandra and Strathcona Parks (now city hall), and the Cambie and Powell Street grounds. He also officiated at the cornerstone laying of the Vancouver Free Library at Main and Hastings (now Carnegie Centre) March 29, 1902.

Dr. William J. McGuigan

[b. July 18, 1853 Stratford, Ontario; d. Dec. 25, 1908.]

McGuigan was said to be a good writer and speaker as well as the most titled man in Vancouver. Ambitious though he was, holding both a law and a medical degree, he seems to have given himself wholeheartedly to the development of Vancouver. “There should be no hint of personal ambition,” he said, “at the expense of our collective security.” While in office, Mayor McGuigan oversaw improvements to False Creek that led to the filling in of the portion east of Main St. about a decade later. His other involvement in civic institutions included work with the B.C. Medical Association, the High School Board, and the Free Library Board. His brother Thomas was Vancouver’s first city clerk.

William Harold Malkin

[b. July 30, 1868 Burslem, Staffordshire, England; d. Oct. 11, 1959.]
Sandwiched between L.D. Taylor’s double terms of office, merchant and importer William Malkin benefited from public disillusionment with Taylor. He gained the distinction of being the first mayor of Greater Vancouver following amalgamation with Point Grey and South Vancouver in 1929. One of Malkin’s campaign slogans during the electoral race in 1928 was “It’s time for a change.” Another was “When you vote for Malkin, you vote for law and order, civic morality and fairness to labor.” Malkin established a committee to look into corruption and embezzlement in the city’s Relief Department and worked to bring about changes in civic policy to benefit the working class, and wrote a book titled The Conquest of Poverty.

Malkin later donated a 2.4 hectare park behind his Kerrisdale home to the city as well as the money for construction of Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park, the latter dedicated to his late wife Marion.

Malcolm Alexander MacLean

[b. Aug. 14, 1842, township of Cornaigbeg on the island of Tiree, Scotland; arr. Vancouver 1885; d. Apr. 4, 1895, Vancouver.]

Though the man who was to be first mayor of Vancouver had only recently moved from Winnipeg and had to be persuaded to run, he grew into his role and established the office of mayor with a combination of pioneer spirit and distinction. MacLean, a realtor, was practically unknown to voters in Vancouver’s first election, but he presented himself well, had travelled widely and was not Richard H. Alexander, MacLean’s only opponent.

Alexander was the unpopular manager of the Hastings Sawmill, the biggest employer in Granville. The city’s first election was as honest as could be expected for the time, which is to say, not very. There was chicanery on both sides. MacLean won by 17 votes and “people were so elated that they took him in a buggy and hauled him all over what there was of the little town.”

Less than a month later the Great Fire of June 13, 1886 destroyed most of Vancouver. Mayor MacLean lost all his possessions, but plunged into organizing relief efforts and distributing rations sent from New Westminster. It became obvious he was willing and able to guide the citizens through the crisis. After the initial shock of the fire, MacLean called council together in a tent at the northeast corner of Carrall and Water Streets, and resumed the direction of civic affairs “without five cents in the bank, without an assessment roll and without even a chair to sit upon.” Challenges to his mayoralty were dropped and he went on to win the next election fair and square.

Just one year after the Great Fire, MacLean greeted the first train and the first steamship into Vancouver on behalf of its proud citizens.

For more read his entry in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography